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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies Attack Kravchuk Over Nuclear Pact

The Ukrainian parliament Thursday lashed out at President Leonid Kravchuk for signing an agreement with Russia and the United States that would commit the country to give up its entire nuclear arsenal, but took no action.


At the first parliament session since Kravchuk signed the accord at a summit in Moscow last week, deputies also amended the Ukrainian constitution to allow Kravchuk to outlaw last weekend's presidential elections in the strategically important Crimean peninsula.


Furious at Kravchuk's nuclear agreement, which many Ukrainians believe will leave the country defenseless before a predatory Russia, some deputies called for the president's impeachment and others for a referendum on the accord.


The only action parliament took, however, was to send the text of the agreement for study in committee to determine whether or not it contravenes conditions parliament set last November on ratification of the START I nuclear arms reduction treaty.


Kravchuk has said since signing the trilateral agreement that it is not subject to ratification by parliament, but nationalist deputies have made a series of threats to block it regardless.


On the equally emotive subject of last week's elections in Crimea, which placed Russian nationalist Yury Meshkov in a strong position to become Crimean president, parliament gave Kravchuk the means to override the vote.


Deputies warned that if Kiev should fail to act, bloodshed in the peninsula will follow.


Sunday's vote gave Meshkov, an ethnic Russian, a first-round lead over his rivals for the post of president. He had campaigned on a program of independence for the Crimea from Ukraine and reunification with Russia, although he has since moderated his position.


Speaking in Thursday's parliament debate, Ukrainian opposition leader Vyacheslav Chernovil said: "We already have a stream of blood," referring to a string of killings in Crimea linked to the election campaign. "If we don't take action we will have a river of blood."


However, Western analysts in Kiev said that Thusday's parliamentary vote, which was passed only at the third attempt, reflected the weakness of Ukraine's parliament by passing the issue to President Kravchuk to deal with.


Ian Bzrezinski, a U.S. foreign affairs adviser to the Ukrainian government and the son of the former U.S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, also said it was likely that Crimea was on the path to independence from Ukraine.


"This election is going to throw up a whole number of questions," he said.


"First it may prove to the Ukrainians the West can't deliver on security guarantees," he said. "Second, it could jeopardize the nuclear disarmament treaty, signed last week. Third, it will strengthen the belief that Russia is interested in acquiring parts of the Ukrainian territory. Fourth, it could spark violence in the peninsula."


Although there will be a runoff in two weeks time between Meshkov and the second placed candidate, Nikolai Bagrov, Meshkov is expected to win by collecting votes from the remaining four candidates in the first round.